“If you can’t change the world. Change yourself,” sings the English post-punk band The The in their song “Lonely Planet.”
On the surface, it is both liberating and sad to hear that perhaps we cannot change the world. However, that does not mean that we should be resigned. On the contrary. The challenge is rather to change ourselves, that is, change our approach or relationship to the world. And that too can be difficult.
The moral is the following: It is people who change the world. A change occurs by which certain people have another approach or relationship to the world. By that I am saying nothing about what is good or bad, only that if you want a different world, a slightly better and more loving world, it is not going to happen by itself. Nothing comes of nothing. Everything starts here and now with you and with me.
Another important element in this line of thinking is that there is no reason to preach or moralize. No one has lucrative access to the truth or goodness. But you can inspire others through your actions. You can lead by example. Meet the world with kindness.
Everyone is a mutable process without reference to a given essence but to something permanent. To something that I can help influence or cultivate. This type of cultivation requires that we look inward and outward. It is important to realize that you can always be influenced by or influence the surroundings of which you are a part.
Why would you like to change the world?
One possible answer could be that you want a world without hierarchies, whether they are patriarchal, racial, social or economic. It could also be that you want to create a more harmonic balance with the nature of which we are a part.
Behavioural economics, motivational theories, compulsion and threats can change people’s behaviour, but only in the short-term. Fear is a repressive solution model. Lasting changes come about through shifts in mentality, another way of thinking, feeling and living. No one can bear to live in constant fear. If I begin living differently, for example, am more friendly and loving, that approach will also affect my thoughts and feelings. It can be expressed simply: I want to save the Earth, not because I fear its demise, but because I love it.
To the extent that I want to change myself in order to – perhaps – change the world, I must first liberate myself from the ideals and norms that keep me trapped in a regressive approach to life.
I will stop allowing myself to be seduced and controlled by things that give status and prestige in today’s performance society. Instead I will interact with life attentively, kindly and lovingly. I will surrender to life. I will joyfully allow life to take me where it flourishes.
In connection with the launch of a new Danish ecological clothing label, I was invited to write three semi-philosophical reflections: You can only change yourself is the third.